An interview with Lauren Orme, founder of Cardiff Animation Nights and Festival
The Cardiff animation scene is as varied as it gets. Every style of animating under the sun is being produced at levels from feature film to indy production. Lauren Orme has been bringing together this ragtag bunch since 2014 with Cardiff Animation Nights, a monthly event where animators get together, watch some cool animations and have a good time. Lauren also has big plans for the future, with the Cardiff Animation Festival pegged for April 2018. Exciting! We're big fans of Cardiff Animation Nights at Spin The Yarn, so I met up with Lauren over some hot beverages to find out what makes her tick.
Hey Lauren, tell me about yourself
I'm Lauren Orme and I'm a freelance animator. I studied animation at the University of Newport in 2009-2012 and I've been freelancing for just over 5 years. I also run Cardiff Animation Nights and the Cardiff Animation Festival.
What's your experience as a freelancer been like?
I've mostly had a mixed experience. I've only ever had one client who's said Cardiff is a problem, someone who is really London centric and would just assume I could just come to meet him straight away. That was the only person who had a problem with me being in Cardiff. Then they emailed me and were like "We'd love you do some more work, are you still based in Cardiff?" And I was like "Yeah" and they just never replied. Other than that it's really positive.
I almost did move to London before and I think it would have been so crazy trying to make ends meet, Cardiff gives you so much more flexibility. This was before I was part of building an animation community here (Cardiff). I think there's such a lovely community growing and that's a massive part of me feeling happy here. It can be quite isolating being an animator. Going to festivals you meet so many people and they're so lovely, no ones got a huge ego.
Why did you choose to do animation?
I chose animation on a whim, it sounds really stupid, but I was doing art foundation and I was trying all this stuff from graphic design to photography. I did a 2D animation taster and I was look wow, suddenly what you can do expands so much, it's like time based, I can play with beats and manipulating people's expectations. So I just fell in love with it straight away. That was around the time that I had to apply to do a degree and I was like I'm gonna do that! I didn't stop to think about whether it was a sensible decision.
What style of animation do you do?
I mainly draw and do 2D digital cut outs. I do 2D stop motion.
What's your experience of the scene in Cardiff and how it's changed?
Companies wise there are different ones around from when I first started to now, Cloth Cat didn't exist, Dynamo did exist. In my mind it changed loads but that's because I've gone from not being involved in anything and feeling like there was nothing for me to do, so we need to create an event and then setting something up and growing it to then starting a festival. My journey of the scene has been so extreme.
I think Cardiff is on the up and it's a nice place to be at the moment.
So what's Cardiff Animation Nights?
It started in October 2014, a conversation with Joanna Quinn and John Rennie. I'd been saying for a while that Cardiff needs an animation festival, it's the capital of Wales, there's lots of animators here, I love animation festivals but they're always really far away. It would be so good to bring this stuff to Cardiff and I think I said this to Joanna at a festival once. She said John Ronnie also wants this to happen so she linked us together. I met with John and he said "Yes! I want this to happen. I'll support you, what we gonna do then?" And we kind of agreed you can't just go straight into running a festival. You've got to do some events first, so that's what we did! I've always been supported by the main pillars in Cardiff animation, which has made it easier.
What has the response been to the events?
It's been difficult in lots of ways. It's loads of time and it's all volunteered time and you don't get paid for any of it. That's the main difficulty, finding the time, but I just love it and I find the time. It's probably a detriment to me and my actual career, but it's nice anyway.
Our first event had 30 people. We started by showing a feature film by Jan Svankmajer called 'Surviving Life' and we immediately realised it's important to show short films. It's just a better format for that kind of event so then we showed 6 short films for the second event. It's grown and grown and we get about 100 odd people, which is nice. We've moved venues twice because we grew too big for each one.
How have you found being the presenter or the events?
Really stressful, it doesn't come naturally to me, but I just get on and do it.
Tell me about the festival
Events wise, we’re running our first event in April 2018. It's so exciting and terrifying. We've done everything we can do in the lead up to it to feel like we've prepped for it. We've done an animation stand at a festival for a couple of years to paddle in the water. That was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding. We've done taster events this summer which have done really well.
At the Cardiff Animation Festival there are going to be master classes, loads of short films screening, but hopefully some feature film screenings, ideally with Q&A’s from the teams, which should be nice. The idea is to bring filmmakers and creators to Cardiff. We want to make it fun and establish a vibe where people feel like that's a fun weekend! There will be networking opportunities, which we're trying to do in creative ways where people don't feel pressured. It will be friend making positive opportunities. That's the dream.
Do you think Cardiff's Animation scene is as good as anywhere else in the UK?
I think it's got pros and cons, it doesn't feel as established as somewhere like London or Dublin. I think it's got a lot of advantages over London and Dublin, it's much cheaper to live here, so it feels more grassroots. There's a lot more room for creative breathing, a lot more room to play because people aren't so scared and competitive. As good? Yeah definitely, but different. It's got it's own thing going on. It's got a slower pace of life, but i think particularly if you're the sort of person that needs to come up with ideas, like a director or a writer, a slower pace of life helps, you don't have that same sort pressure on you to always be earning and working. There's room to think about the things properly. And Welsh people are great.
And finally what's your favourite animation?
I've got a favourite animated short film that made me want to start a festival, which is Oh Willy. It's a 20 minute stop motion film made all of felt and it's a guy who's mother is ill and she lives in a nudist colony. He goes there to care for her and it's where he grew up so he's got all these memories of the past, but it's also very comedic because there's the nudist colony going on and then it escalates from there.